I was talking with a friend a couple days ago who said that she dreaded the hours between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Her energy would tank, she wanted to take a nap and her energy would basically take a giant swan dive. Her complaint about feeling sluggish in the middle of the day is common. Very common. I hear this all the time from the people I work with. Whether you're a stay-at-home-mom or working a nine-to-five job, hitting a wall in the middle of the day is miserable.
Even though the reason for feeling run down in the middle of the day could be any number of reasons (lack of sleep, fighting off a cold, etc), making changes to your diet could likely make a profound difference. Everyone wants to stay productive throughout the day. Eating right can and will absolutely make a difference in terms of productivity.
Here are a few changes you can make right now to improve your energy all day long:
1) Cut Out Refined Sugar In Your Breakfast
Yogurt, cereals, low fat muffins, coffee drinks...even bagels and pre-packaged oatmeal all have (or convert to) sugar quickly. Most of these foods are labeled as healthy, so you have to be a sleuth and discriminate between what's truly healthy and what's not. Just because something gives you a "good-for-me" vibe, doesn't mean it's good for you. Chances are, especially if it's packaged, it will sap your energy. Some people need more carbohydrates than others, but very few people (if anyone) need all the refined carbohydrates found in a bagel (about 48 grams), or the 26 grams of sugar found in some low fat yogurts.
TIP: AIM FOR 13 GRAMS OF SUGAR OR LESS IN YOUR MORNING BREAKFAST
2) Go Green For Lunch
Lunch, as much as breakfast, can cause your to fall into a food coma during the afternoon hours. It's important to eat healthier, nutrient-dense carbs, like leafy greens, for lunch. A lot of people go back-to-back on their starchy carbs for breakfast and lunch, making a bagel, muffin or breakfast sandwich the meal of choice in the AM hours, and a sandwich or wrap the go-to in the PM hours. It's absolutely no mystery if you're ready to give your head some keyboard by 2:00pm. Eating like this throws off your insulin, which throws off your energy levels...and also promotes fat storage. Eat clean and green for lunch and you'll be raring to go.
TIP: ASK FOR AN EXTRA SIDE OF VEGETABLES IN LIEU OF BREAD, RICE OR POTATOES WITH A LUNCHTIME ENTREE. BETTER YET, SHOOT FOR A SALAD, BOWL OF BROTH-BASED SOUP, OR LEAN PROTEIN INSTEAD.
3) Keep Track of Your Fluids
You should be drinking about half your body weight in water every day. No exceptions. Coffee, soda and other caffeinated beverages don't count. In fact, they deplete fluids from your body. Brain fog, slower metabolism and a lack of creativity are all byproducts of a dehydrated body.
TIP: DRINK A GLASS OF WATER AS SOON AS YOU WAKE UP, AND JUST BEFORE EVERY MEAL OF SNACK. YOU'LL FILL YOUR QUOTA AND IMPROVE DIGESTION BY STICKING WITH THIS SCHEDULE.
4) Say NO to Afternoon Joe
Cut back on caffeine after 10am. Caffeine gives its biggest kick when you least expect it. That is, caffeine has been shown to only pick us up when we consume it inconsistently, that is, every other day or so. Drinking caffeine all day every day not only dehydrates us, but it throws off our cortisol...both of which can make us feel stressed, and then tired. What's more, it has very little, if any, effect on improving energy.
TIP: CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE IN THE AFTERNOON. AFTER YOU HAVE THAT MASTERED, CUT BACK TO LOWER, BUT HEALTHIER CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES, LIKE GREEN TEA, WHICH ACTUALLY HAS A DETOXIFYING EFFECT ON THE BODY.
5) Eat Every 2 to 3 Hours
Eating every two to three hours keeps the furnace that is our metabolism moving. Eat small meals every couple hours (optimal word is "small") and you'll feel more energy that you ever could eating a one or two large starchy-carb-filled meals throughout the day. Eat consistent small meals (call them snacks if it makes you feel better) throughout the day.
TIP: KEEP FRUIT, CHOPPED VEGETABLES AND MIXED NUTS ON HAND FOR QUICK ENERGY WHEN YOU FEEL HUNGER COMING ON.
How can I help you reach your ideal weight, help you improve your energy or get you fit? Check out my weight loss and fitness coaching services and let me know.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show, Dr. Oz, Oprah.com and SHAPE magazine. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.